I am sure many of you know about my private obsession with the legendary tale of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. I own every version of the story on DVD (save for the silent film version, and “Robin & Marian” starring Sean Connery & Katherine Hepburn) – and I have seen ALL of the renditions of the tale. Yes, I am a proud fan of Robin Hood – and it has nothing to do with wearing green tights. 😉 On a historical note, did you know that the love story of Robin and Marian is the very 1st world-wide love story to be presented on stage and in song? That’s right folks: this love story was known throughout Europe centuries before Romeo & Juliet.
I am also a huge fan of Ridley Scott. Truthfully, I have yet to see a film of his that I didn’t like! So, when I heard that one of my favorite stories was getting a fresh new look at the hands of the great Mr. Scott, I was more than a little excited. I waited for this to come to the “cheap” theaters, and then missed my opportunity to see it! Sadly, I was forced to wait until it was released on DVD. For my birthday, “Robin Hood” arrived and I immediately had to watch it! (My family really knows how to make me a happy man!)
Ridley did not disappoint. This version of the tale is a somewhat grittier version of the legendary archer and his struggle against tyranny. A couple of key points I would like to make about this version of the story: 1) Ridley paints a most unflattering picture of Richard “the Lion Heart”, and 2) Ridley presents a wider view of the events surrounding Prince John and his ambition for the throne of England. The film starts with the Crusades, which is more looting and pillaging across France (via Richard) than any heroic battles against the “infidels”. I believe that Richard’s fame was always a little overblown, and I know that several historians have tried to discredit the so-called great king of England over the last several years. Granted, this is all conjecture. I don’t know if he was the great king or not, but history does say that the facts are pretty solid concerning his war-faring ways. So, maybe Ridley wanted to present a different version of King Richard than the usually heroic view. It’s different and I liked it for that reason.
As for the events surrounding Prince John and his quest for the throne of England, Ridley paints a larger view of the world with John having conflict and issue with King Phillip of France. I think this helps the story a bit more because it paints John in both a slightly sympathetic light and it presents the arena of politics. This latter part is almost completely ignored in most films about Robin Hood. I believe it is due to the murky nature of the politics of the age. That and I don’t know how much fact can be ascertained about that time period.
I know that some people will say that Cate Blanchett is not the prettiest Maid Marian, but honestly, I felt she was perfect for the role. She is an exquisite actress, and she is English which allowed the accent to fit perfectly. As for Russell Crowe as Robin, it was a decent fit. Crowe is a fine actor, but he just isn’t what I imagine for the look of Robin Hood. Regardless, he carried the role with ease. And, as a bonus, Ridley portrays Robin as a Welsh yeoman. In other words, Robin is more of a common man, an archer in the militia and has a vaguely Scottish or Irish accent. Crowe depicts Robin to be a rogue, a kind of clever misfit that is a little more larcenous than the usual depiction of the character. I liked this presentation of the two main characters because the story unfolds more naturally – as does the romance between them.
Too many times in other versions of the tale, Robin and Marian seem to fall in love at 1st glance and then he spends the rest of the movie trying to save this damsel in distress. The story is so well known that you often feel like everything you are about to see is a foregone conclusion. I didn’t feel that way with this treatment of the story. I really wanted to see how Marian and Robin developed into a relationship. Ridley conducts this element of the story with such grace and the actors do an INCREDIBLE job and easing into it that I was cheering for them by the end of the movie. Yes, it takes the entire movie for them to finally get together! I loved that too! It wasn’t rushed and thus was allowed to develop as gradual as you can do in a 2 ½ hour stretch of film.
Ridley did a nice job creating a background story that seems more plausible than a noble deciding to become an outlaw just to thwart tyranny. In this “Robin Hood”, the hero sort of falls into his role – partially by bad decisions and partially due to politics. The line of “rise & rise again until lambs become lions” is poorly integrated into the story with some lame back story of how Robin’s father was executed for being a political activist. In my opinion, Ridley should have had Robin learn about the meaning of the phrase through interaction with the other characters. (Speaking of which, they were a plethora of colorful supporting characters that were acted extremely well in this movie!) Regardless, the movie moves so quickly past this that it doesn’t detract from the film as a whole.
So, with much enthusiasm, I highly recommend this different take on the mythic tale of the bandits of Sherwood Forest. I am also excited to say that this is the 1st film in a trilogy! This is not a commercial Hollywood bland rendition of Robin’s tale. Instead, it is a more realistic look at what may have occurred to inspire such a legend! It’s not a history lesson and there may be discrepancies. However, I dare say that NO ONE knows what really happened. Was Robin only partnered with Marian or was there a Chlorinda? Was Richard actually King during Robin’s tales, or was it Edward? Was Robin the Earl of Huntington or not? Who knows??? My advice: grab some mead and sit down to relish in the extraordinary vision of Ridley Scott’s “Robin Hood”!
…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE